Before Sunset

Before Sunset [2004]
Before Sunset is the follow-up to Richard Linklater’s terrific romantic drama Before Sunrise that followed two strangers, Jesse and Celine, as they fell for each other during one evening in the streets of Vienna. Set nine years after their first meeting this sequel (also made nine years later) finds Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine running into one another during the last week of Jesse’s book tour in France.

If We Didn’t Suffer, We’d Never Learn Anything. Richard Linklater focuses on honesty and realism in his films to an astonishing degree at times. His characters live and learn precisely as any real person would. Time and place exist within the confines of our own shared reality. It’s because of these rooted details that his films are able to connect so deeply to their viewers. This film, set nine years after Before Sunrise and produced exactly that amount of time later, catches up with the two fated lovers who met in Vienna as Jesse tours his book that recounts that one magic evening almost a decade before. Celine finds him at her favorite bookstore as he finishes up his interviews and the two take a stroll around Paris as they discuss what’s right and wrong about life, what they’ve accomplished these past years, and what cards life has dealt thus far.

If Someone Were To Touch Me, I’d Dissolve Into Molecules. Where Before Sunrise was a tale brimming with romanticism, hope and love and possibilities, Before Sunset comes across as a reality check. These characters have accomplished some great things since their twenties, but love and relationships and reality has had almost all of the magic stripped away. Struggling with a loveless marriage or unsuccessful relationships, Jesse and Celine fall easily back into their effortless banter where anything and everything seems safe in the other’s ears. It’s refreshing, while also heartbreaking, to see these two adults who fell for one another as hard as we the audience did to them have run into the same problems that plague many of us today. Life is made up of missed opportunities and mysterious circumstances that aren’t always as magical as we’d hoped for when we were younger.

Everyone Is Made Up Of Such Beautiful Specific Details. Almost everything about this production is the same as before. The film follows these two as they walk around Paris, filling the frame mostly with over the shoulders and two shots as they walk and talk. Every so often we’re treated to some of the beautiful aspects of the locale. Long takes (some as long as 11 minutes) never break away as we peer into the shared moments of these two incredibly real people sharing incredibly tangible moments together. It’s so simple and yet so elegant, and every minute’s handled expertly in front of and behind the camera. This is craftsmanship on an expert level.

I’m Designed To Feel Slightly Dissatisfied! Because Hawke and Delpy still have such indelible chemistry, and because what their characters have to say is so easy to connect to the film excels on the same levels as the first. The only hindrance is the unfortunate reality that this is not a story dripping in romantic ideals, this is not two young lovers falling effortlessly for one another, this is about what it is to be in real life with real commitments, living with one’s own mistakes and decisions, and the unhappiness that is, unfortunately, present in many of us. Everyone has to deal with the consequences of their life, everyone longs for and dreams of things once had or not quite achieved. This is the unbalanced existence we all inhabit. We have choices, and sometimes we can’t do much with those choices or we can’t make the choices we would hope. All we can do is try and find the moments that light us up inside if even for a second. There’s still a little bit of hope in all of us. There has to be. And if we stick with it, it might just pay off.

A delicately handled and profoundly affecting film crafted with masterful skill.

Watch Before Sunset Now